Italy gets nurses from India instead of improving working conditions to fix shortage

Italy gets nurses from India instead of improving working conditions to fix shortage |

The increasing need for health workers has led the government to ‘import’ staff from countries such as India and Cuba instead of proposing policies to fix the current issues in the system.

For years, Italy has been reckoning with a shortage of nurses- an issue that came to light during the COVID-19 pandemic and has deteriorated due to no concrete measures to address it being put in place.

Italian professionals complain of low wages and few career prospects, and many choose to move abroad, often to neighbouring Switzerland, while young people are leaning less toward pursuing courses of study in health care given the working conditions.

Even though there are three centre-right anti-migration parties in government, the solution found by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni (Fratelli d’Italia/ECR), Vice-Premiers Matteo Salvini (Lega/ID) and Antonio Tajani (Forza Italia/EPP), was to ‘import’ professionals from abroad.

The first doctors arrived from Cuba, while soon nurses will arrive from India, ready to guarantee a large number of professionals enticed by higher wages, despite everything, than those offered in their homeland.

“It would not be bad to have more doctors in Italy, especially in certain specialities, but nurses, on the other hand, just aren’t there. So we are working, on the one hand, for the nursing profession to become more attractive, but in the short term, we must have agreements with foreign countries to have adequate numbers of nurses”, said Health Minister Orazio Schillaci.

The Italian Order of Nurses speaks of a “buffer solution” acceptable only if accompanied by guarantees and with the primary objective of giving greater recognition to the nursing profession, both in economic and career terms. Professional unions, on the other hand, doubt the linguistic and professional preparedness of Indian colleagues.

In Italy, the ratio of nurses to citizens is lower than in other European countries, and the average reduction in enrollment in the Faculty of Nursing Science is -10% compared to last academic year.

The Italian Court of Auditors estimates a shortage of about 65,000 nurses, while an additional 20,000 “family and community nurses” are needed. In recent years, nearly 30,000 Italian nurses have moved abroad; more than 3,000 leave each year.

This is compounded by the fact that Italians are an increasingly older population, nearly 20% is over 65 years of age and thus increasingly in need of health care. The shortage of nurses is estimated to increase yearly due to the imbalance between retirements (17,000 per year) and new hires (8,000 per year).

In addition, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Italian healthcare labour market suffers from a chronic lack of funding, poor career opportunities and nepotism, making it unattractive to foreign professionals.

(Federica Pascale |

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